October 25, 2018
Both hands on his signature rolly podium, walky-talky in his pocket, smile on his face, he warmly greets students and staff in the hallways of Atholton. Meet our newest solution to Hutchins-withdrawal, our latest addition to Raider Nation—Principal Robert Motley.
Now a 13-year veteran principal, Mr. Motley first began his educational career as a French instructor in Prince George’s county. He then transferred to Atholton High School and taught for four years. After 18 more years of being an administrator in Howard High School, Centennial High School, Patuxent Valley Middle School, and Glenwood Middle School, Mr. Motley has made his return to AHS as the new principal for the Raiders.
This is not the first time Mr. Motley is being welcomed into a new school, establishing expectations. As different communities entail different needs, the principal hopes to develop Atholton into a school with a more distinct reputation as a spirited and welcoming place. “When we had the Ravens game the other night, the stadium was packed,” he said. “It was so nice to see the kids rushing to the field afterwards. I’d like to really capture that and keep that going.”
The Raider Review interviewed the student body, asking if they had advice for the new principal. The italicized font reveals students’ advice to Mr. Motley. In regular font are his responses.
Communicate well with the community. Schedule yourself to be with students. Explain your decisions.
“It’s certainly very important to develop relationships with staff, with students. Listening is important; that’s why I spent all that time visiting the classrooms and talking. I thought it was important that people understood where I was coming from and then allow people to express their viewpoints as well.”
Accept the difficulties in satisfying an entire student body. Understand that you will be unpopular times.
“I agree; I didn’t get into this because of the popularity contest. I got into it because I thought I could make a difference in some way. I’m glad to hear that piece of advice. At least someone recognizes that sometimes the best decisions aren’t always the most popular ones.”
Be open to criticism and feedback. Trust student opinion.
“When I was with the seniors, I had a bulletproof vest on because they were hammering, right. It was good. At least I allowed them to express their frustrations. So I agree with that, and sometimes it’s very difficult to listen to people criticize you, but I think once they were able to voice it, then it kind of died down.”
Enable more student involvement. Encourage staff to help with extracurriculars!
“Here’s what I would say to that: if there is a student who is having trouble finding a staff member to sponsor a club, come see me. I don’t want them to stop trying in vain. So come see me, have a conversation. Maybe we can find someone together.”
Fairness is one of the many things Mr. Motley believes to be a hallmark of an effective leader of a school. Knowing that one is going to be treated the same way as another is crucial when building trust in a relationship, he says. “I firmly believe that as the principal of the school, it’s my job to set the standard for what that’s going to look like and create that environment in the building as well.”
When discussing areas for improvement at Atholton, Mr. Motley acknowledged the noticeably small cadre of students—in comparison to the large population it aims to represent—that seemed to dictate the school. His goal is to encourage more members of the student body to get involved in the decision making process at Atholton.
“I’m almost 50 years old and I still remember high school,” Mr. Motley said, stressing the importance of a delicate balance between restrictions and having fun in an indelible high school experience. “I think one of my responsibilities is to make sure that, even though we still have parameters and expectations, [high school] is a time that you will look back upon fondly, and I do feel that that’s a heavy responsibility and burden on my shoulders. There has to be expectations, but at the same time, there are ways that we can make this a fun and exciting place to study, to interact.”
He joked, “Hopefully I’m remembered as a little more than just the guy who took the food and earbuds away!”